YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Following an uproar from residents, Supervisor Michael Grace clarified this week that the three war monuments removed from in front of town hall to make way for handicapped parking spaces will be relocated to Patriot Park, where they will be the centerpieces of a “ring of honor” for the U.S. military.
Last month, the town board sought bids on the removal of the monuments, a flag pole and cherry trees from in front of town hall. Though four new handicapped spaces will be created as a result, the plan was criticized by residents who would prefer to keep town hall just the way it is.
The controversial plan was precipitated by a December 2016 lawsuit from Westchester Disabled on the Move, a Yonkers-based nonprofit organization, that claimed town hall was not compliant with the federal act because of insufficient handicapped parking spaces.
When news of the plan made its way to Facebook, dozens of residents expressed their displeasure with it, particularly the removal of war monuments from in front of town hall.
The anxiety comes on the heels of violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., prompted by the town council’s decision to remove and sell the statue of Robert E. Lee, a general who commanded the Confederate Army in the American Civil War.
The three war monuments in front of town hall are stones bearing plaques honoring Yorktown residents who were killed serving in World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars. The World War I monument was erected in 1919, the World War II monument in 1952, and the Korean and Vietnam war monument in 1968.
Unlike in Charlottesville, Yorktown is not removing the monuments for political reasons, Grace said.
“The only reason why the war memorial monuments are being relocated is to make town hall ADA-compliant,” Grace told Yorktown News.
Additionally, the town’s settlement agreement with Westchester Disabled on the Move was filed on May 30—more than two months prior to the events in Charlottesville.
Grace said the war monuments will be used in a “ring of honor” bordering Patriot Park, which is adjacent to town hall. In the ring of honor will also be five flags honoring the different branches of the U.S. military—Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy.
Grace stressed that he embraces Yorktown’s history. In fact, he said, the Railroad Station, Zino’s barn, the Pines Bridge Monument and the war monuments will all be stops along the North County Trailway, making for a “historical corridor” in the downtown Yorktown Heights area.
“If any communities are looking to get rid of their monuments, they can certainly give us a call,” Grace said.
In addition to creating the handicapped spaces by Oct. 2, the settlement agreement (embedded below) with Westchester Disabled on the Move also requires Yorktown to pay $3,500 in attorney’s fees. The cost of the removal and relocation of the town hall items will not be known until bids are returned.
Though he applauds the plan to create handicapped spaces in front of town hall, the executive director of the organization that sued Yorktown said he never asked for the potentially pricey plan that Yorktown settled on.
All Melvyn Tanzman wanted, he said, was for the existing spaces in front of town hall to be designated as handicapped spaces. He said they were designated as handicapped spaces in November 2013, but the signs were removed four months later.
“I didn’t want it to be a news story,” Tanzman said. “I just wanted the spaces in front.”
Though it will cost more, he said, the town’s plan “really is the better solution” in regards to safety.
Regarding the uproar over the removal of the war monuments, Tanzman, a Democrat who sought the party’s nomination for supervisor, called the complaints “pretty appalling.”